Good call…sharing what I found (very long) - Posted by Gene
Posted by Gene on May 02, 2007 at 10:36:35:
Good Call…I thought I would share what I found…
Ethridge v. Hwang, No. 44545-6-I, (Slip Op., February 12, 2001, ordered published March 16, 2001).
Feb. 2001 ETHRIDGE v. HWANG 1
Cause No. 44545-6-I
[No. 44545-6-I. Division One. February 12, 2001.]
MARY ETHRIDGE, a single )
woman, ) No. 44545-6-I
) DIVISION ONE
ANNA HWANG and DAVID HWANG, )
wife and husband d/b/a DUVALL )
HIGHLANDS MOBILE HOME PARK, ) FILED: February 12, 2001
This opinion was originally filed as an unpublished opinion
February 12, 2001. An order granting motion to publish was
filed March 16, 2001.
Trial Court: Superior Court, King County,
No. 97-2-09814-9, Robert Alsdorf, J., April 29, 1999.
Edwards Sieh Smith & Goodfriend P.S., by Howard M. Goodfriend,
Dan R. Young, for respondent.
WEBSTER, J. – Mary Ethridge, a tenant of a mobile home park, sued the
mobile home park owner, Anna Hwang, alleging that Hwang unreasonably
rejected her potential home purchasers. Ethridge prevailed following a
jury trial, and Hwang appeals. Hwang argues that the trial court erred
in not dismissing Ethridge’s claims under the Mobile Home Landlord Tenant
Act (“MHLTA”) and the Consumer Protection Act, and that the verdicts
based on these claims were not supported by substantial evidence. Hwang
also claims that the jury’s finding that Hwang tortiously interfered with
Ethridge’s business expectancy was not supported by substantial evidence.
Finally, Hwang argues that the trial court erred in awarding Ethridge
attorney’s fees and costs. Each contention, while strenuously argued,
lacks merit. We therefore affirm.
Mary Ethridge owned a mobile home located at space #119 in Duvall
Highlands Mobile Home Park. The park is owned by Anna Hwang. In April
1997, Ethridge sued Hwang, alleging that she attempted to sell her home
to a buyer, Mr. Qualls, but that Anna Hwang unreasonably refused to
permit the sale. Ethridge also alleged that she found another buyer,
Ms. Cubine, but Hwang again unreasonably and wrongfully refused to
approve the sale. The complaint further alleged that Ethridge had been
forced to live and work in an area in which she no longer wished to live,
thereby causing her emotional distress.
Ethridge alleged that this conduct violated the Mobile Home Landlord
Tenant Act (“MHLTA”) (RCW 59.20.010 et seq.) and constituted tortious
interference with contract.
In addition, Ethridge alleged that Hwang had a widespread pattern
and practice of refusing to permit the assignment of tenants’ rental
agreements, denying applications for tenancy in the mobile home park, and
refusing to approve sales of mobile homes in the park on idiosyncratic,
frivolous, unreasonable, and unlawful grounds. Ethridge alleged that
Hwang engaged in these practices in the park in which Ethridge resided,
and in the White River Estates Mobile Home Park, which Hwang also
operated. /1 Ethridge alleged that as a proximate result of Hwang’s
unfair and deceptive conduct, Ethridge suffered injury to business or
property and Hwang’s conduct violated the Consumer Protection Act
Hwang moved for summary judgment and to compel arbitration. The court
denied the motion for summary judgment and transferred the case to
mandatory arbitration. The arbitrator ruled that Ethridge had suffered
damages of $384 in lost wages as a result of Hwang’s untimely rejection of
the Cubine sale and that Ethridge was entitled to attorney’s fees as the
prevailing party in the amount of $14,277.60. Hwang appealed, requesting a
trial de novo.
The jury returned a special verdict, finding that Hwang had violated
the MHLTA and the CPA, and had intentionally interfered with a business
relationship or expectancy, causing damage of $3,000. The jury awarded
Ethridge $10,000 in additional damages for pain and suffering as a result
of the intentional interference. The jury found for Hwang in the amount
of $1,140 on her counterclaim for rent or other charges.
Following the jury verdict, Ethridge filed a motion for attorney’s fees
as the prevailing party in the litigation. The court determined that
$39,585 was a reasonable lodestar fee, and then increased the lodestar
fee by 25%, for a total of $49,481.25 in attorney’s fees. In addition,
the court awarded increased damages of $9,000 for violation of the CPA.
A total judgment of $72,759.52 was entered against Hwang.
Following the verdict, Hwang filed a motion for judgment as a matter of
law, or alternatively for a new trial, which was denied.
In this appeal, Hwang argues that the trial court should have dismissed
Ethridge’s MHLTA and CPA claims; the damages awarded were not supported
by substantial evidence; Ethridge was not entitled to increased damages;
the fees and costs awarded were improper, and the court erred in failing
to give certain requested jury instructions. Because these arguments
lack merit, we affirm.